Conche rocks

Juris Graney
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Students top Atlantic province competition

The entire Sacred Heart All-Grade school population - all 14 of them - huddled around the phone in principal Robyn Park's office last Thursday, oblivious to why they had been called there.

The winning team from Conche are Dereck Gardiner, Toni Kearney, Sarah Bromley and Maurice Lewis who celebrate their $1500 win and the title of the YOU Innovate Altantic Canada champion.

The entire Sacred Heart All-Grade school population - all 14 of them - huddled around the phone in principal Robyn Park's office last Thursday, oblivious to why they had been called there.

It turns out the actions of four of their students - Sarah Bromley, Maurice Lewis, Toni Kearney and Dereck Gardiner - had led to the vitally important conference call between Conche and Halifax.

As the befuddled students listened to faceless voices from across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it quickly became clear that this wasn't bad news coming but something very exciting.

Then the announcement was made.

Those four students and their company, Party Rock, had been selected as the YOU Innovate Canada Atlantic provincial champions and named ‘Most Innovative Minds' in a competition that drew inspired entrants from across the country as part of the Canada Youth Business Foundation annual event.

The nationwide competition's premise is that the spark of a great business idea simply comes from looking at an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way. This year, that 'ordinary thing' was a coffee cup and in Party Rock's case, a Styrofoam coffee cup.

From Sept. 26 to Oct. 13 the quartet of budding entrepreneurs set about creating a business from the bottom level of a house in Conche and created eco-friendly party supplies including paint splattered confetti, bright celebratory badges and banners declaring all kinds of festive messages.

Creating the products was just part of the competition, they also had to devise a business plan and develop marketing and advertising platforms.  

The grade 12 students took the competition one step further when they incorporated it into their Entrepreneurship 3209 class.

Ms. Park said the class was designed to give students a certain level of expertise.

"But this competition and what they [students] have achieved has gone above and beyond the curriculum," she said.

"The course is designed to teach the students about the world of business but this has given them real world skills in a sense. I think it was really beneficial."

So do the students.

"It was a great opportunity for a different learning process because you can learn all you want from books but by taking part in this competition, you get a better understanding of the material you are learning," Toni said.

"I think we probably got better grades for it."

Top grades aside, the four winners also pocketed a $1500 first prize cheque which will be equally distributed among them.

"I think they should it to their principal for letting them take part in this," Ms. Park laughed.

Voting during the competition was open for about five days and Derek said watching the voting take place was never racking.

"The website didn't work for the first couple of days so they extended the deadline for voting but watching it was crazy," Dereck said.

On the last day of voting a violent pre-winter storm, which knocked out power to the Northern Peninsula, plunged Conche into darkness but they still managed to get the word out and increase their ppopular vote.

The group had launched a Facebook group and drew on a collection of friends and families to show their support for their company.

But support for the concept came from farther afield with orders now coming in from all over the province as well as positive feedback from across Canada.

The group snuck away with a 41 vote win in the popular poll but it was their business acumen and eco-friendly concept that placed the tiny town on the map.

"It's crazy," Sarah said.

"To think that students from a school of 14 can win an Atlantic province competition like this is amazing."

The group said they would keep the business running and they've already been approached by several local businesses in Roddickton who are ready to donate a staple supply of Styrofoam cups for the company to churn into confetti or party material.

"We want to thank everyone who helped us win this and who voted for us," Toni said, "and to the other students at the school that helped us out as well." 


Organizations: Party Rock, Sacred Heart All-Grade school, CanadaYouth Business Foundation

Geographic location: Conche, Atlantic, Canada Robyn Park Halifax Roddickton

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